County Increases Equitable Contract Access

Efforts to make contracting in Alameda County equitable and accessible have recently taken a giant step forward. Alameda County on July 16 released its contracting data from the past three years, which outlined how many contracts go to locally-owned, women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
In addition, on July 15, the county kicked off the Contracting Bonding Assistance Program, an innovative effort designed to help small local contractors and minority-owned business receive bonding, which is essential to their success.
The Contracting Bonding Assistance program is sponsored by Alameda County’s Office of Risk Management. It aims to help small contractors enhance their credit worthiness while minimizing risk and increasing their number of bids on county projects.
This new program offers classes, one-on-one consultation and other business services to assist small contractors in efforts to help them qualify for and participate in projects. The initiative also works in close collaboration with agencies responsible for certifying small, local and emerging businesses.
Ingrid Merriwether, President and CEO of Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services, called the assistance program “a paradigm shift,” one that “eliminates barriers” for small businesses that otherwise cannot qualify for bid bonds.
The Program will help make Alameda County “the clear leader in leveling the playing field so that everyone has access to jobs,” Supervisor Keith Carson told to a large crowd gathered for launch of the assistance program.
“We still have a way to go,” Supervisor Carson said, but the bonding assistance program “is a great start.”
Information released at the July 16 meeting compared county contracts awarded from July 2000 – June 2003 to those awarded from July 2006- June 2009, broken down by gender and ethnicity. Also highlighted were policy changes that have been implemented since the delivery of the Availability Study by Mason Tillman in 2004, and the recommendations put forward by the county’s Executive Steering Group and the Committee’s Community Advisory Group.
Successes included an increase in percentages of contracts going to Minority Owned Businesses and Small, Local and Emerging Businesses, which jumped from 10.4 percent to 38 percent. Specifically noteworthy was an increase in contacts over $500,000 awarded to these businesses growing from 6.8 percent to 38.9 percent.
Yet, not all the news was good. While construction contracts for African American males increased by 50 percent going from $1.8 Million to $2.7 Million, the actual percentage of construction contracts awarded to African American males was about 2.8 percent while numbers of construction contracts that went to firms owned by white males was still close to 51 percent.

Jeannie Chang, Arthur Washington and Geoffrey Pete are members of the Alameda County Procurement and Contracting Committee Advisory Group. Pat O’Connell is the Auditor-Controller for the County, Susan Muranishi is County Administrative Officer, Keith Carson is the County Supervisor for District 5, and Scott Haggerty is the County Supervisor for District 1.

Jeannie Chang, Arthur Washington and Geoffrey Pete are members of the Alameda County Procurement and Contracting Committee Advisory Group. Pat O’Connell is the Auditor-Controller for the County, Susan Muranishi is County Administrative Officer, Keith Carson is the County Supervisor for District 5, and Scott Haggerty is the County Supervisor for District 1.